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Review | Sa Wakas, The Musical

Review Theatre

I’d been wanting to post a Sa Wakas review since its opening night, but time is rarely on my side lately, so that little thing got shoved into the backburner every single time. Now that the run is officially over (they closed last Sunday, February 12), I feel like I should at least try to articulate All The Feelings I felt watching the musical… while juggling today’s workload, that is.

Please note, however, that I am extremely biased–and while I will be trying my best to keep things objective, I can’t promise you a spazz-less, coherent review.

Sa Wakas - Full CastAnyone who’s seen Sa Wakas (the 2013 run or this latest one) will tell you that its story is nothing new. Telling the story in reverse chronology is something we’ve already seen before as well. But I think what makes Sa Wakas so special is the nostalgia and sentiment that now-defunct band Sugarfree‘s songs bring to the show. I’ve seen the show four times and I have never not heard anyone singing along (quietly, thank God) to the songs as they were being performed on stage. And it wasn’t just people my age, too. There were younger people who knew the songs by heart, knew them even better than I did, actually.

So yes, I’m going to say that the heart and soul of the show is actually in the music Ebe Dancel wrote. They might have been released years and years ago, but Dancel’s poetry dances through time and touches everyone’s hearts no matter what age bracket and even social strata you belong to. Add Ejay Yatco‘s brilliant musical arrangement and my gosh… I swear. Overture pa lang, ulam na mga bes. Wish we could have a cast recording, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. (Please prove me wrong, musical gods?)

This is not to say, however, that Sa Wakas creators Cha Pammit and Andrei Pamintuan aren’t to be lauded. Dancel provided them with the material and they worked around it to create a story that’s cohesive and relevant to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship (or anyone who’s ever witnessed a relationship blossom and wither). I especially loved the attention to detail, the “oh shit” moments I got watching the show. I’ve read some reviews saying this iteration of the musical became too wordy, but I’ve also heard people say they like this version better because things were “clearer” this time around. I have not seen the musical in its first run so I can’t really compare the 2013 and 2017 versions, but what I can say is that the writing was very real and heartfelt. And eventually heartbreaking.

Topper - Vic RobinsonDid I cry? DUH. I guess it didn’t hurt as much as it did some people I know who have gone through a similar life narrative, but it did hurt. And while I’ve heard some sniffling in the audience during Burnout or Huling Gabi, it was always during Tulog Na and Prom that the waterworks turned on for me. Because. DAMN IT. (I don’t want to be spoiler-y just in case there’s another run in the works, so yeah I will leave it at that.)

I’m happy to have experienced the way both casts took on their characters, because backstory: Since Rak of Aegis, I’ve developed a habit of finding where alternating casts differ in their portrayals of their characters. Call me weird, but it’s a really fun exercise. 😛 Anyway.

Victor Robinson is every bit the leading man Topper is supposed to be. He has this clean cut, boy-next-door look that makes girls swoon. I’ve seen him first in last year’s Ako si Josephine as Flattitude and thought he was really cute and awfully familiar. Little did I know I’ve already been seeing his face all the damn time while watching the old Bawat Daan video produced for the first Sa Wakas run.

In stark contrast is Pepe Herrera, who, aesthetically-speaking, kind of fits the photographer-artist profile a little more than Victor. (Because let’s be real, Victor looks like a model.) The great thing about these two was that they also have starkly different portrayals of Topper, which leaves you more to think about when you post-mortem the show afterwards.

Topper - Pepe HerreraIn my eyes, Victor’s Topper was more arrogant, more sure of himself. Of course he carried with him that insecurity that Lexi, his fiancée, is doing better than he is in terms of pursuing their passions. Compared to Pepe’s portrayal, though, Victor gave his Topper a more jerk-ish feel. He had his moments of vulnerability, but watching him interact with Gabbi and Lexi (especially Lexi) made me feel he had little to no remorse about what he did to them both. That’s why I always felt like punching him in the face. (Sorry, Victor! Peace tayo.)

Pepe’s Topper, though, wore his insecurities on his sleeve. He was the picture of a man who suddenly got thrown into a situation, went with a bad decision, and watched helplessly as a trainwreck happened right in front of him. His body language was always so apologetic and tentative and unsure, like he’s always toeing the line between coming home to Lexi or running away with Gabbi. I seriously wanted to hug him. And then shake him by the shoulder and say “GAGO KA, UMAYOS KA.

Even their voices were so distinctly different I loved it. Victor’s voice was just pure, unadulterated awesomeness. Close your eyes for a bit and you’d think Ebe Dancel was actually on stage performing. Pepe’s voice, meanwhile, was the softest, most vulnerable thing. Sometimes I felt scared for him because he’d start off pitchy, but then he’d be like “nuh-uh” and knock the notes out of the park. Both were amazing in their roles, but–and this is where the bias comes in–I will have to say I like Pepe’s portrayal more because he made me care about Topper too.

Caisa Borromeo and Cara Barredo alternated as Lexi, Topper’s fiancée, who was training to be a neurosurgeon. And while both ladies have amazing voices (my god!), I had a difficult time understanding the dialogue when it was Caisa throwing them. Maybe I’ll blame my untrained ear, but her accent kind of threw me off more than a few times, especially when she and Vic were arguing on stage and I almost couldn’t understand a thing. Same goes when she was singing, because some Filipino words have to have this impit somewhere for it to deliver a certain emotion, but it wasn’t there most of the time so the first few times I wondered what word she was singing.

One more thing about Caisa’s portrayal of Lexi: The way she said “…artists and dreamers who don’t contribute to society” and “you don’t use your brain naman eh, you just point and shoot” was so hurtful. Even more than the way Cara said it. The first line wasn’t said as a joke, so I guess it was okay to feel hurt. But the second line… wow. That was just… GIRRRRRL, YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THAT. In short, napikon ako. LOL. 😛

Cara’s Lexi was more… I don’t know, cute? I’m not sure that’s the appropriate word, but that was what I thought when I saw her the first time. She was this precious little giggly lady asking to see Topper again because she left some things with him after the breakup, etc. etc. As the show went on and I was trying to pinpoint where Cara was different from Caisa, I realized that she 1) was better in Filipino, and 2) took a little more time enunciating her lines. A friend of mine who saw the show with me twice (first with Caisa as Lexi, and then with Cara) said she suddenly understood the context of the arguments when it was Cara saying the lines… so I guess I wasn’t the only one with the untrained ear. 😛

Lexi - Cara BarredoOh, and I just have to say, I was more heartbroken with Cara’s Lexi I actually cried during Burnout. I never cry during Burnout. Also, I am in love with how she and Pepe interacted on stage. Pepe made her laugh during Wala Na Akong Hihilingin, which wasn’t part of the script, but it made the entire scene feel so natural. The way she related with him also made me believe she was in love with him, and it was even more painful watching the last two numbers because of it. </3 If I have to choose a favorite Lexi, I’d say Cara won my heart.

Lastly, Justine Peña and Maronne Cruz alternated as Gabbi, the art-loving writer who gets involved with Topper while he and Lexi are still very much together. I’ve seen both ladies in different shows before (Justine in 3 Stars and a Sun and Maronne in Ako si Josephine), and was happy to have been able to catch both their performances as Gabbi. Again, very different portrayals, but both very convincing as well. Justine’s Gabbi was lovable and sexy, while Maronne gave her Gabbi a quirky, fun vibe.

Gabbi - Justine PeñaBut while Justine made my heart ache for her character, I feel like she performed better with Vic. Conversely, Maronne ‘clicked!’ (geddit? *cough*) more with Pepe. I had very different feelings about their Kuwentuhan scenes, however. With Justine and Vic, I was dreading the fact that they were falling for each other while spending that much time together. With Maronne and Pepe, I was actually enjoying watching them, because again, just like that Wala Na Akong Hihilingin scene, the interactions felt so organic. The laughter felt natural. When the characters joked around with each other, it felt like they were genuinely amused.

I loved Justine’s voice though. It was so… clear. And pretty. <3 (And this has nothing to do with the performance itself, but I found myself feeling starstruck seeing her up close. She’s so beautiful. I followed her on Instagram recently pa nga eh. ;;) Her speaking voice too. Eek! Girl crush! 😛

Gabbi - Maronne CruzThat’s not to say of course that Maronne’s singing ability was lacking. She was great! She just had (and I’m not so sure about this) a different vocal range, I think? Like a lower register than Justine’s maybe, but she still hits those high notes like nobody’s business and I’m SOLD. I’d love to see both ladies in whatever other shows they’ll be in in the future.

Oh and I love the Chuwariwaps (Laui Guico, Moira Lozada, and Abi Sulit) and their little antics here and there, apart from complementing the band with their lovely voices. (Abi, if you’re reading this… sobrang funny mo lagi as that doctor who gives Gabbi her test results. Good luck with Med school!) ^_^ Hans Dimayuga had a small part in the show as Kuya, but I really wanted to hear more of his voice. It was amazing.  My favorite line of his? “Ang corny mo. Tang ina, puro ka poetry!” *cackles*

My favorite scenes:

  • Bawat Daan/Ikaw Pala/Prom
  • Dear Kuya
  • Hari ng Sablay
  • Pinakamagaling na Tao sa Balat ng Lupa
  • Prom

Some other things to nitpick before I give my final rating:

  • Like I said above, I’ve seen the show four times–including opening and closing nights–and always, always, there was something going on with the sound system. I’m not sure what was happening. Either the mics had scratchy sounds, or there was nasty feedback. Sometimes the band overpowered the actors, which probably meant the actors’ mics were not working well? IDK, it was just distracting.
  • The show felt a little too long. If they’re having a rerun, I will suggest trimming it down a bit.
  • Why were there no souvenir programs? 🙁 I’m sad. I bought the postcards instead so I can have some memorabilia. The postcards were really pretty though.

Rating

review 4 stars

If you’re looking for a musical that explores the happy-fluffy feeling of love, I’d say avoid Sa Wakas.

Sa Wakas is NOT a love story. No. It is the story that happens when a love story falls apart. It is not pretty, true, but when the heartbreaking scenes are scored with Sugarfree classics and the all-too familiar characters are portrayed by fine actors, the journey becomes more cathartic than anything. To me, the heartbreak Sa Wakas caused wasn’t a jolt to the heart. It came slower. It was the kind of pain that crept up on you until you couldn’t do anything but succumb to it. That’s how the show affected me. If you haven’t seen it yet, and a third run is announced, I suggest seeing it with a friend. You’d need someone to hold on to. Or at least someone to talk to after the show’s over.

Oh and yeah, I made a Sa Wakas playlist on Youtube because I wanted to listen to all the songs again… in the order they were performed in the show. If I messed up on the order, let me know?

Header photo taken from youngstar.ph.

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